Cities of Words: Pedagogical Letters on a Register of the Moral Life

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Harvard University Press, 2005 - Philosophy - 458 pages
6 Reviews

Since Socrates and his circle first tried to frame the Just City in words, discussion of a perfect communal life--a life of justice, reflection, and mutual respect--has had to come to terms with the distance between that idea and reality. Measuring this distance step by practical step is the philosophical project that Stanley Cavell has pursued on his exploratory path. Situated at the intersection of two of his longstanding interests--Emersonian philosophy and the Hollywood comedy of remarriage--Cavell's new work marks a significant advance in this project. The book--which presents a course of lectures Cavell presented several times toward the end of his teaching career at Harvard--links masterpieces of moral philosophy and classic Hollywood comedies to fashion a new way of looking at our lives and learning to live with ourselves.

This book offers philosophy in the key of life. Beginning with a rereading of Emerson's "Self-Reliance," Cavell traces the idea of perfectionism through works by Plato, Aristotle, Locke, Kant, Mill, Nietzsche, and Rawls, and by such artists as Henry James, George Bernard Shaw, and Shakespeare. Cities of Words shows that this ever-evolving idea, brought to dramatic life in movies such as It Happened One Night, The Awful Truth, The Philadelphia Story, and The Lady Eve, has the power to reorient the perception of Western philosophy.

  

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Review: Cities of Words: Pedagogical Letters on a Register of the Moral Life

User Review  - Robert Wechsler - Goodreads

I was not convinced by Cavell's theories, nor taken with his film descriptions and the way he pushed the mixture. But I liked his idea of moral perfectionism, and ethics as conversation with a friend who helps you question yourself and grow. Read full review

Review: Cities of Words: Pedagogical Letters on a Register of the Moral Life

User Review  - Richard Deming - Goodreads

A good overview of Cavell's work in that the text is a series of lectures he prepared for a course at UChicago. It distills Cavell's ideas on "straight philosophy" (Emerson, Hume, Kant, Mill, et al) and film-as-philosophy all in terms of his ideas of moral perfectionism. Read full review

Contents

Introduction
1
Emerson
19
The Philadelphia Story
35
Locke
49
Adams Rib
70
John Stuart Mill
82
Gaslight
102
Kant
119
Stella Dallas
265
Freud
282
The Lady Eve
301
Plato
313
His Girl Friday
340
Aristotle
352
The Awful Truth
373
Henry James and Max Ophuls
384

It Happened One Night
145
Rawls
164
Mr Deeds Goes to Town
190
Nietzsche
208
Now Voyager
227
Ibsen
247
GB Shaw Pygmalion and Pygmalion
409
Shakespeare and Rohmer Two Tales of Winer
421
Themes of Moral Perfectionism in Platos Republic
445
Acknowledgments
449
Index
453
Copyright

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About the author (2005)

Stanley Cavell is Walter M. Cabot Professor of Aesthetics and the General Theory of Value, Emeritus, at Harvard University.

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